Cam Mackenzie might be the most balanced prospect of this year’s AFL draft class – both on and off the field.
Mackenzie is a reliable, well-rounded on-baller with the ability to win the ball on the inside and outside equally. He has excellent vision, poise and neat disposal, yet also possesses a strong contested ball game and a great burst from stoppage – a trait he’s worked meticulously on over the past 12 months. At 188cm, he can also play in any third of the ground, too.
Off the field, he has a measured temperament and speaks with impressive articulation. Yet he’s also a terrific listener and always keen to improve as a player and person.
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“If I‘m not being vocal, I’m trying to just lead by example and set the standard with the intensity of training and competitive side of it as well. But on a game day, I’m big on we want the team to succeed, so if someone’s in the wrong position, I’ll make sure that I’ll tell them,” he told foxfooty.com.au.
These traits helped Mackenzie to produce an ultra-consistent 2022 season where he impressed – and improved – at every level he played in.
Now, the Sandringham Dragons product – and St Kilda Next Generation Academy graduate – looms as a genuine top-10 contender for draft night.
Despite Mackenzie’s connection to the Saints – his dad Rob was born in South Africa – the club can’t match a bid on him before Pick 40 — a rule that’s been brought in over recent years. But there’s a chance he could still be on the board at the Saints’ first selection – should the Hawks, Cats and Eagles overlook him before Pick 9 (not including the Will Ashcroft bid) – and they’d surely consider taking him.
Mackenzie’s surge into top-10 calculations began to gather serious momentum after his strong start to his 2022 campaign, averaging 21.8 disposals from his first four matches.
The AFL club interest ramped up.
“That was definitely the plan, to have a good first four games to showcase what I could do and play well in. Then that way, if everything goes to plan, you get your name out there and clubs are more interested in you if you start to play well,” Mackenzie said.
“After those first four games, I definitely noticed that was probably the point where clubs really started to take interest and ask more questions.”
Mackenzie’s output only improved from there. He averaged 25 touches for Vic Metro to win All-Australian honours then kicked two goals from 26 disposals in Sandringham’s comprehensive NAB league grand final win.
The 18-year-old’s improvement across the past 12 months has been significant.
“A big thing I noticed at the end of last year – and something that I wanted to work on – was my outside game,” he said. “I recognised that improving that speed off the mark was going to help me go a long way to seeing improvements in my own game this year.
“So I did a lot of work with the strength and conditioning coach at school during the summer period last year. Mainly that lower body strength, plyometric training and just working on that power.
“I noticed that early on in the testing where my 20m test was significantly better than it was the last time I did it.”
While non-Victorian clubs are particularly wary of recruiting some metropolitan prospects this year, they would have confidence drafting Mackenzie.
In 2016, Mackenzie and his family moved to France for a year in 2016, living in a little village in Nice. Mackenzie attended a pure French-speaking school, making the initial few months a difficult experience.
But 12 months later, his French had improved dramatically – to the point where he was keen to study the language as a subject when he returned to school in Australia. He’s hoping French will be one of his higher-scoring subjects when Year 12 results are released next month.
“I‘ve managed to maintain it pretty well … it has a massive bonus on the ATAR,” he said with a laugh.
“Having that experience living overseas does make the idea (of moving interstate) seem less daunting. My preference is probably to stay in Melbourne, but I just want to play footy and if I had to play interstate, I’d definitely take the challenge and have a big impact and help the team succeed.”
Mackenzie’s focus will soon turn to becoming a full-time footballer – a prospect, he says, he’s prepared for both mentally and physically.
And he’s vowed to have an immediate influence at AFL level.
“I am ready and I think I can take this next step and be a part of an AFL environment and have an impact pretty early on,” he said.
“That‘s definitely the goal, if I get the chance, is to not just go and impress, but also have an impact quite early on in my career.”